Is Your Business Making Any of These 5 Common Twitter Mistakes?

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As Twitter grows to encompass almost 200 million users and businesses display almost as many Twitter icons as Facebook icons on their websites, you’d think that companies are starting to figure out how to better utilize Twitter to inform and truly engage with the public.  While there are success stories of businesses on Twitter who are finding their own path in social media, it still amazes me as to how many ways businesses can improve upon their Twitter presence and stop making the common mistakes I often see.  As I prepare to present at a virtual conference put on by the folks at Vocus about the common mistakes that businesses make on Twitter and how to improve their tweeting, I wanted to share some of my ideas with you on 5 quick and easy ways many businesses can immediately improve upon their current Twitter presence (details on how to sign-up for the free virtual conference are at the end of this post).

5 Common Mistakes Your Business Makes on Twitter and Ideas on How to Improve Them

1) Put a Human Face on Your Tweets

Let’s face it: Social media was made for people, not companies.  This puts businesses at a distinct disadvantage in social media, in which Twitter is no exception.  How best can you “humanize” your tweets coming from a business profile?  How about put pictures of the faces of the people that are tweeting on behalf of your company on the Twitter background and have your employees use their initials at the end of each tweet?  For a good example, albeit they use avatars instead of real photos, check out the Microsoft Support team page.

2) Are You Monitoring Your Following Versus Followers Ratio?

Your Twitter Following versus Followers ratio is an important indication of your willingness to be social.  Let’s look at the following scenarios:

0 Following, 1,000,000 Followers – If you’re a movie star or famous music artist you can get away with this because your fans don’t expect you to acknowledge them anyway.

300,000 Following, 300,000 Followers – You are following back as many as follow you.  If you’re not careful and auto follow back people, you might be following a lot of spam bots.  But if I was to follow you, it would appear that you would reciprocate.  You are displaying a willingness to be social and acknowledge my presence.

2,000 Following, 10 Followers – You’re obviously just trying to spam people on Twitter and only 10 people have found value in what you have to say.

If you really want to build up a relevant following, you have to follow people back.  I am not advocating the auto following back of automated bots, but your following versus followers ratio says a lot about what your intentions are for using Twitter.  Think about it and start following back real people who can potentially become brand advocates or even customers for you.  Social media has leveled the playing field between businesses and consumers, and consumers feel empowered.  Why you wouldn’t want to follow them back and acknowledge their presence is beyond me.

3) Tweet Strategically

Does your company even have a Twitter content strategy?  Is your Community Manager deciding what content to share, and not your Content Marketing Czar?  If you are confused by any of these questions or terms, your business probably isn’t tweeting strategically, and I find this is one of the most common mistakes your business is probably guilty of.  Think about it: Twitter isn’t about you, it’s about them.  What information and communication do they want to hear?  Start tweeting it!

4) Leverage Twitter Lists

Twitter is not just about sharing information but also about communication, which has been displayed all too clearly in the recent political upheavals in Africa and the Middle East.  Is your business truly being social and engaging with the public?  One easy way of accomplishing this is to simply create a Twitter List of the people you want to engage with.  You are allowed to create 20 lists, each with 500 members.  You can create them for a variety of reasons, but I guarantee you that for every 500 people you put on a list, there will definitely be a few who thank you for list inclusion, assuming that you named the list in a way that would make them feel proud to be on.  Once they are on your list, you have the additional benefit of being able to easily monitor their conversations and look for a chance to engage with them based on content that might not be picked up by your savvy social media monitoring software.

5) Create an Industry Chat

If you haven’t noticed the growth in Twitter chats, where have you been?  Chats give you the ability to network with real people, many of whom are joining the conversation to learn about any given topic.  I believe a Twitter chat can be an extension of your content strategy.  In other words, if you are trying to be resourceful and share information about your industry, why don’t you take the extra step and create an industry chat to engage with other users while you share the information?  Just one more way to attain thought leadership, grow your following, engage with social media users, and spread the word about your company.  What’s stopping you from starting one?

There are so many other ideas I have in which businesses can be improving upon their presence, but hopefully the above 5 will get your business starting to think about tweeting the right way.  I will be sharing my thoughts on the above and giving out a lot more ideas on this topic on the free virtual conference “Social Media: So What? What Businesses are Getting Wrong, and How Not to Do the Same.”   This will be held on March 16, 2011.  More details are below, but you can register for free by going here.

If you’re making the same old social media mistakes as everyone else, no one’s paying attention to you.

In fact, they probably forgot you were there. Ouch.

Okay – don’t panic. In fact, take some time off. Half a day, on March 16th. Hang out with Vocus and five social media superheroes online, at our free virtual conference Social Media. So What – and learn to reconnect with the fans and friends you’re in danger of losing. Your speakers are:

• The Revolutionary: Scott Stratten, UnMarketing

• The Social: Adam Singer, Lewis PR and The Future Buzz

• The Sage: Greg Jarboe,

• The Practical: Neal Schaffer, Windmills Marketing

• The Unafraid: David Brody, North Social

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
Hosting a social media contest? Don't get in trouble with the law. via @Inc - 2 hours ago
Neal Schaffer


  1. says

    The fallacy with arguing one follows x people on Twitter is when is used as the default application. I used to use third-party systems like Seesmic and Tweetdeck but have stuck with the vanilla website for the past year. I can’t follow too many without getting overwhelmed — which is why I (currently) follow very few by stream but many more by public and private lists.

    • says

      From a business perspective, I believe that companies would rather have more rather than fewer followers. Just by the simple act of following back others they can increase their effectiveness of doing this.

      From a personal perspective everyone has their own policy, such as the one you recommend above. I am in social media to get found, not to have private conversations, so i want to follow back those real professionals that follow me to engage and open up lines of communication. I don’t read my Twitter timeline but instead rely on Lists and going to actual profiles to get caught up with others.

      As I tweeted to you last night, I won’t follow those that don’t follow others but will instead add them to lists – the exact opposite of your policy!

      Love the diversity of thought that exists in social media 😉 Keep it comin’!

          • says

            Wisdom requires thinking about what is best for others and not just for ourselves. Not following people who follow you – especially if you are a business – creates the appearance that you feel you are “too good” or “too busy” or “too something” to care.

            We can never know WHY someone chose to follow us by reading their profile. Maybe they seem totally unlikely to be your target audience – but they are looking for something their Mom or their friend or their boss wants.

            Any serious social media user who limits who they follow is not seeing the larger picture here OR the people they want to reach are far different than who I want to reach. There ARE some who feel that having far more followers than you follow creates an image of exclusivity – they really DO want others to believe they are superior.

            I want everyone to feel welcome to connect with me. While for individuals that is a personal preference, for businesses think of it this way. Treat your Twitter followers the same way you would treat anyone who walks into your business. If you don’t welcome “strangers” you are turning away a lot of potential sales.

          • says

            You’re preaching to the choir here Gail – I couldn’t agree with you more! Really appreciate your stopping by and commenting as well as our conversations on Twitter. Hope to be more social soon – after I finish writing this book that I’ve been working on…

  2. says

    Hi Neal, great post here. Your number 1 is definitely the most important point I feel. Getting a face to your tweets just makes all the difference. Also your number 3 is something I particularly connect with. I feel as twitters seriousness increases, it is no longer that black hole of thoughts being expressed to anyone and no one. It really matters and getting a sound content strategy will make a huge difference, when building your community around your twitter account.

    Just heading over to your follow up post about Twitter content strategy to learn more about it.

    Many thanks for sharing, let me Buffer this post right away. :)

  3. YoPaulieNJ says

    Small point; the list promises “Top 5 Mistakes” but the list is worded as best practices, not mistakes! Great post, however.

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